United lose 2-0 to table toppers Ayr United despite a resolute performance in Laurie Ellis’s first game as Interim Manager.
By Ian Isbister
Dundee United went into today’s game against Ayr United with Laurie Ellis taking charge of the side as Interim Manager. After last weekend’s 5-1 defeat to Ross County at Tannadice, it was all change at the top as Csaba Laszlo left the Club. Ellis’s last spell as interim boss gave United two wins out of two and the United faithful were again out in force to cheer on their side.
United had Fraser Aird out injured after his dead leg against Ross County last weekend, and Stewart Murdoch began the first game of his suspension after last week’s sending off.
Top of the table Ayr United, managed by ex United boss Ian McCall, were flying high after three consecutive victories and would be looking to Lawrence Shankland to add to the 17 goals he’s scored already this season. Last season’s 1st Division Champions had Rose and Higgins on the injury list.
Ellis made five changes to the starting line up from last weekend. In came Siegrist in goal, Booth, Fyvie, King and Smith. Nicky Clark started on the bench as he returns from his Achilles injury.
Ian McCall made three changes to his starting line-up as Forrest, Adams and ex-United player Mark Kerr were all promoted from last week’s bench against Morton.
United started brightly with plenty of possession, particularly down the right wing as Watson overlapped well with McMullan. It was t he Honest Men who had the first chance of the game as a through ball was well intercepted by Siegrist in the United goal with Forrest bearing down on the keeper.
United’s first chance came after 10 minutes when a Safranko knock down into McMullan’s path was laid off to King on the left side of the box. His first time effort was cleared by Doohan for United’s first corner of the game.
Smith and McMullan were central to United’s early chances and switched positions between the middle and right of the attacking line. Safranko’s movement off the ball helped to split the Ayr defence and give United more space.
The opening goal of the game came after 21 minutes and it was the home side who went ahead. A defence splitting pass from Moffat found Shankland on the run and the in form striker made no hesitation in scoring from 15 yards past Siegrist - his 18th goal of the season and whilst not quite against the run of play harsh reward for United’s efforts in the opening exchanges of the game.
United were unlucky not to equalise in 30 minutes when a wayward Bouhenna pass was retrieved by McMullan. His quick run and cross into the box found Smith in the middle. The youngster’s flick almost found the left side of the Ayr goal but for the finger tip save from Doohan.
Rabitsch was next to get in on the action, after 38 minutes. McMullan’s run from midfield found Safranko on the right wing. As he cut inside his pass to Rabitsch was well controlled first time and the Austrian’s shot flew just past the right hand post.
United continued to press and in the last minute of the first half a speculative effort from Safranko appeared to come off an Ayr player’s arm in the penalty box. Referee Greg Aitken waved away United’s appeals and that was the last action of the first half. Despite Ayr’s one goal advantage United had given as good as they got against their table topping rivals.
Second Half - United started the second half brightly and had four corners in the first eight minutes of the second 45. Safranko continued to press and harass the Ayr defence but couldn’t find a way through. The first 20 mins of the second half were typical Scottish fare with end to end chances and neither side giving up on any loose passes. Fyvie was resolute in the midfield and looks to be back to his best since his long term injury lay off.
It took until the 74th minute for Ayr to increase their lead. Moffat’s well weighted pass found substitute McDaid on the left of the box and his low shot flew past Siegrist to make it 2-0.
Despite the scoreline, United continued to look for opportunities and the introduction of Clark upped the tempo. Loemba was unfortunate in the 80th minute when his looping effort came back off the crossbar.
As referee Greg Aitken blew for full time at 2-0 to Ayr United, Interim Manager Laurie Ellis will no doubt rue United’s missed chances but be satisfied with his side's efforts on an otherwise difficult day for United.
Man of the Match - Pavol Safranko. Always looking to get involved and he striker was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet today.
Dundee United - Siegrist, Booth, Frans, McMullan, Fyvie (C) (Stanton 79 mins), King (Loemba 60 mins), Safranko, Smith (Clark 72 mins), Bouhenna, Rabitsch, Watson,
Subs not used - Rakovan (GK), Barton, Wardrop, Robson,
Ayr United - Doohan, Harvie, Kerr, Geggan, Moffat (Moore), Forrest (McDaid 60 mins), Bell, Adams (C), Shankland, Murdoch, Smith,
Subs not used - Hare-Reid (GK), McGuffie, Crawford, Ferguson, Docherty,
Referee - Greg Aitken,
Assistant Referees - David Doig and Alain Grainger,